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More than 600 Register for Governor's Cybersecurity Competition at Brookdale; Innovative Program Answers Urgent Need to Protect Computer Systems

  • Lincroft, NJ
  • January 16, 2013

More than 600 students and veterans registered for the New Jersey Governor's CyberChallenge, a cybersecurity competition that will identify New Jersey's best cyber warrior talent, Brookdale Community College officials announced today.

The goal of the competition is to guide students into college training courses and, ultimately, into high-level security jobs. Organizers had hoped 250 students and veterans would register, but more than 600 responded to invitations from New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks.

"Brookdale Community College is taking the lead to help protect the security of our state and nation by creating the country's first CyberCenter initiative," said Secretary Hendricks. "This unique public/private partnership builds a clear pathway from classroom to workforce, providing a much-needed training opportunity for New Jersey students to gain entrance into this important and highly employable field."

President Obama declared last year that the United States is facing a severe shortage of cybersecurity workers. The shortage of well-trained people is so great that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has called it her greatest problem. Large- and medium-sized companies have been frustrated by their inability to hire enough trained cybersecurity professionals.

In response to this urgent need, Brookdale Community College, in collaboration with the CyberAces Foundation and with the support and involvement of Governor Chris Christie and the Secretary of Higher Education, is hosting the New Jersey Governor's CyberChallenge.

The Governor's CyberChallenge has two parts - an entry-level, on-line competition taking place during the next two months, and a State Finals event to be held at Brookdale Community College on March 23, 2013. The Challenge is part of a four-phase pilot program that is aligned with and supports recent recommendations made by the national Department of Homeland Security Taskforce on CyberSkills.

The Phase 1 goal for the Brookdale pilot program was to register approximately 250 participants. When registration closed on Jan. 15, 613 registered for Phase 1, exceeding the goal by more than 100 percent, Brookdale officials said.

"Community colleges are designed to respond to industry needs and Brookdale is well- suited to provide training for the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. The competition is a wonderful event and the start of a great partnership that will prepare hundreds of future workers for the cybersecurity industry," says Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy.

NetWars, the system used by the U.S. Military, U.S. Government agencies and many commercial companies to evaluate and train their people, will be used for the face-to-face competition. Participants will compete in two-and-a-half hour rounds, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. An awards ceremony will follow.

"What makes this pilot program unique nationally is that it doesn't end with the competition phases, and it puts skilled cybersecurity professionals into the workforce sooner than existing approaches," said Brookdale Professor Mike Qaissaunee.

Qaissaunee originated the cybersecurity program with Ed Skoudis, a SANS Institute faculty fellow. Established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization, SANS Institute programs now reach more than 165,000 security professionals around the world. Skoudis is also the founder of the Wall, N.J.-based security firm Counter Hack.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Brookdale pilot model is that it draws from a broad participant pool. Registration for Phase 1 was free and open to New Jersey high school juniors and seniors; New Jersey college students, including graduate students; returning veterans; current members of the armed forces; and job seekers.

In the Brookdale pilot model, even those participants who do not move to the next level will still gain useful skills that will help place them in jobs with state, federal, and commercial organizations, Qaissaunee said.

The top performers at the New Jersey Governor's CyberChallenge will be invited to enroll in the New Jersey CyberCenter at Brookdale (NJCCB) where they will be immersed in intensive cyber security curriculum comprised of a combination of Brookdale courses and SANS Institute training.

Brookdale faculty, local SANS faculty, and industry experts will supervise the training, provide support to students, and meet with students periodically to ensure their progress, with the goal of placing them in high-level security jobs, Qaissaunee said.

"The New Jersey CyberCenter/Brookdale model is designed to transform the cyberskills pipeline just as a similar program early in World War II did for aviator training," said SANS Institute Director of Research Alan Paller. "It is worth doing everything we can to ensure the nation has a reliable and scalable pipeline. Cyber skills are as important to the protection of the nation today as the aviation skills were during World War II."

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